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My Speech Universe: May 2017

26 May 2017

A letter to...ME as a new SLP

Dear Jen,
I am writing this letter from 17 years in the future!  I want to let you know about the great experiences you will have, and how you will learn and grow along the way.

Just starting out, you will be so eager!  Fresh out of grad school, you will be both excited and scared about what is to come.  Having just moved from the super relaxed town of Flagstaff, Arizona, you will be a little shell shocked with moving back to a faster paced town.  Life won't be that laid back for a while for you.
So young and eager to learn.
Look at that hair!!!!
Looking for a job will be tough, but with your skills, you will quickly be hired by a skilled nursing facility.  This may not be exactly what you thought you wanted to do, but it will be a great place to practice and hone your skills.  You will get great opportunities to work with people with dysphagia, as well as aphasia and cognitive disorders.    You will learn how to build relationships with patients, families, and staff.  These are skills that you will be able to take with you wherever you are.  After working in the skilled nursing home for almost two years, you will realize that this is not truly the population you wish to work with anymore.  You will have given so much of yourself, and seen too many of your patients pass on.  This will be a little too much for you to bear.  You will decide that working in the schools may be more for you.  Luckily right around that time, some laws in your state will change, making it possible for you to work in the schools without a teaching certificate.  Because of the professional relationships you have built, an opportunity will fly open for you in the public school system.

Starting out in the schools will be a little scary!  You will be at an elementary school, taking over for an SLP who was there for over 30 years!  That's a little intimidating, no?  Don't worry, your skills you have learned by working with patients, families, and staff will definitely carry over to this new setting.  You will have to be open to learn and grow working with this new population.  Good thing you held onto all of those language acquisition books!  You will use them!  You will work in a really small district and school.  This will be a great opportunity for you to learn how to schedule, work with teachers and other staff, as well as learn more about the variety of disorders that you will come across in the schools.

After two years in your first district, you will move over to a much larger district and start working with the students who will make the biggest impact on your career.  These are students with Austism Spectrum Disorders.  For the next 13 years, you will be working in schools that have self-contained ASD rooms.  The learning curve will be huge, but you will go to some great in-services, and have a lot of support from your colleagues.  You will gain a passion for creating activities, and then will start sharing all of your resources with other SLPs around the country (and world)!

I guess my biggest advice for you is to keep building relationships.  This is one of the biggest keys in making progress with your students. Build strong relationships with your students first.  They need to trust you and know that you have their best interest at heart.  Next, you need to build strong relationships with families.  These parents are trusting you to help.  Make sure you are updating them and letting them know how their child is doing.  The more communication you have with family members, the more they are willing to carryover activities at home.  This helps so much in your students making progress.  Last, you need to build relationships with staff.  The people you work with closely can become great friends.  They will support you when things are tough.  Your work friends totally get you.  They will know what is going on and completely understand and support you.

Now, you might be wondering what you look like now.  Well, here it is:

Gotta love school pictures!

It's been 17 years (yikes), but you will still be as eager to learn and help people as ever.  Enjoy the ride!